The Internal Revenue Service needs to improve oversight of its process for interpreting tax laws through its published guidance program, according to a new audit publicly released today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. The audit, "The Public Guidance Program Needs Additional Controls to Minimize Risks and Increase Public Awareness," examined the process by which the IRS Office of Chief Counsel develops tax guidance, including a pilot guidance program to request and evaluate public submissions before considering changes to existing regulations. The chairman and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee requested the review after news articles questioned whether the pilot program was putting special interest before the public's interests when developing tax guidance. "We believe the pilot program does not present an increased risk of influence by special interest groups in the selection of guidance projects," TIGTA Inspector General J. Russell George said. "The pilot program did not directly create tax guidance or circumvent existing internal controls." "Although Counsel considers ideas from a wide variety of sources when selecting guidance projects for its annual business plan, it does not track all open projects on the business plan, which could lead to an increased risk of untimely actions, less management oversight, and less public awareness," George added. The audit makes seven recommendations to IRS, including expanding written procedures for developing and monitoring the guidance business plan, issuing more frequent updates to and establishing a reasonable expectation in the Priority Guidance Plan, and improving recordkeeping.
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